The Q&A Archives: Caring for my herb garden

Question: I started an herb garden in raised beds last year. I have parsley, sage, thyne, rosemary, chives, oregano, lavender, dill, basil, etc.

I have 2 questions: The perennial herbs, parsley, sage, chives, etc. did very well, thrived through the winter and all bloomed like crazy this spring. In particular the thyne, parsley and lavender. I cut back the parsley and thyne. The parsley has come back full force, but not with any useful, edible leaves (I have the flat & curley varieties). It just keeps on producing more flowers. I am afraid to cut the plants all the way down because of the heat. Don't know if it will kill them. What can I do to get leaves and not jsut flowers? Mt sage (common sage) bloomed incredibly this spring. Once the flowers dried up, I cut them back to where the leaves ended and the shoots with the flowers began. The plants are not doing well. They look limp and sad and are not producing good new growth. What should I do? My chive plants also look tired and a bit wilted. Should I just cut them all the way down? WIll that kill them? Do they need more/less water?

As for my dill, basil & cilantro, they have all started to flower before growing very big and strong. I have been nipping off the buds, but that still does not seems to encourage plant/leaf growth. Any ideas> Just how much water do they need. I have been watering lightly almost every evening, as it is very hot and we have had very little rain.

By the way, mu oregano grows like a weed, as does the thyne.

Many thanks for your help.

Answer: Parsley is technically a biennial but I've always found that the second year (if it survives the winter) that it will bolt to seed very quickly in the garden.

I start them fresh every year so I'll always have fresh leaves without the tough bolting seedhead. You'll know it is bolting when you see the flower stalk starting to rise from the plant - it resembles Queen Anne's lace - and the only solution is to shear the entire plant back about half way to the ground. This might stop it from bolting for a while and may convince it to provide extra leaves but most of the time, you simply wind up with a stunted looking plant. Once it starts to bolt, the leaves get more bitter and not particularly edible. To avoid this, start fresh plants every year.

The problem with your sage is that you let it go to flower. The plant spent most of its energy producing seeds instead of new leaves. Cut the entire plant back to about 4" above the soil level. Later this summer it should produce new leaves.

Cilantro only lasts for 6-8 weeks and then it dies down, no matter what you do. To avoid being with cilantro, plant seeds at two week intervals and as each plant matures and dies, a new one will be ready to harvest.

Basil prefers growing in cooler conditions. I'd plant in the early spring and then plant a second crop in late summer for early fall harvest.

Chives can be cut down to a few inches above ground level. The roots will send up healthy new shoots.

Hope this answers all your questions. Best wishes with your herb garden.

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